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What to expect when the public charge law takes effect

| Feb 8, 2020 | Immigration Law

As reported in August, the new public charge ground of inadmissibility will have a dramatic impact on many low-income immigrants and their ability to legally remain in the United States. Although the laws were officially slated to take effect in October 2019, changes delayed their release until February 24, 2020.

Prepare for how these updated immigration policies may affect you or your family members.

Who will the new law affect?

Immigration applications with a postmark dated on or after February 24 may receive a decision of inadmissibility for public charge. This law denies individuals who have relied on public assistance and applies to:

  • New applications from immigrants who want to become lawful permanent residents
  • Applications to change category by current visa holders
  • Applications from current visa holders who want to remain in the U.S. for a longer period

Certain individuals will have an exemption or waiver from public charge inadmissibility. Exempt categories include asylum seekers, refugees and those who already have green cards.

In addition, Illinois has blocked the law from taking effect, so applicants who live in that state currently have an exemption. Other municipalities, including New York City, have recommended that applicants continue to use benefits if they already do so.

What public assistance programs fall into the public charge grounds?

Immigrants will now be ineligible to become legal permanent residents if they receive certain assistance benefits for at least 12 months within 36 months. Examples of benefits that may disqualify an applicant include federally funded Medicaid programs, cash benefits, housing assistance and food stamps.

However, you or your family member can receive approval for permanent status even if you have used one of these programs in the past. The law requires consideration of your entire financial situation, so a new job or higher pay may work in your favor.

An immigration expert can help you determine whether the new laws may impact your application. You may also want to submit your request to change status or extend your visa before February 24.